KILLEEN — The Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 11,000 of the nation’s fallen veterans and some of their family members.
Spread throughout the large open space just off of State Highway 195 in Killeen, several sections of headstones can be seen with wreaths during the holiday season.
On Saturday, a few hundred volunteers gathered to remove those wreaths.
Helping to oversee the largest section of the cemetery Saturday, Copperas Cove native June LaFountain said she has been helping for three years.
“My husband’s buried here,” LaFountain said. “And my dad was military, and I guess I probably spent my whole life thinking that the military was something we stood up for and honored. They’ve given a lot for this country.”
During the wreath laying ceremony in November, those with family members buried in the cemetery are given the first opportunity to do so.
Along with placing a wreath at her husband’s grave, LaFountain said it has other significance to her.
“It’s kind of my way of saying thank you for all you did for me,” she said. “I mean, without the veterans, we wouldn’t have the freedoms that we have. My father was in World War II, my husband was in Vietnam and my step-son was in the Gulf War. So, the military means a lot to me.”
City staff, such as city spokesman Kevin Keller are often seen at the cemetery volunteering for the annual event.
Keller spoke Saturday not on behalf of the city, but on behalf of himself.
“For me, when I come out here, I just try to remember that this is the final resting place for those that have served,” Keller said. “I just try to remember it’s the solace time to remember and reflect on those that have served our country.”
Keller said he often visits the graves of former Copperas Cove Mayor Frank Seffrood and former Fort Hood commander Maj. Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker.
“I visit people from within the community when I come out,” he said.
Keller is also a veteran of the military.
The tradition of laying and retrieving the wreaths around the holiday season was started by Jean Shine, founder of the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, or Wreaths for Vets.
Surrounding cities, to include Copperas Cove, provide volunteers in each section to help with the events.
Prior to volunteers retrieving all the wreaths, Killeen recording artist Jackie Cox sang a song he wrote called “What Love Looks Like.”
At the conclusion of Cox’s song, Killeen city spokeswoman Hilary Shine said, “This is what love looks like.”
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, preparation for the next wreath laying should take place on Nov. 20, with the wreath laying on Nov. 27.